Friday, January 30, 2009

A mid winter getaway

DH and I have planned a winter getaway in February to the tropics. I am really looking forward to this. We usually go away every winter except for last year when my instincts told me to stay home because my mom’s time was running out. Turns out my instincts were off by 4 months but I think that’s pretty good considering it was something that was in the works for 16 years.

I’m going to say some really horrible things next. I’ll try to ease the selfishness of my statements by first saying that I miss my mom terribly and would give anything to still have her here (better yet, have her here in GOOD health). However, here we go... I am looking forward to going on my first vacation of my adulthood without worrying. I used to go on vacation and constantly worry about my mom. I had care in place for my mom when I would go away but I’d still worry. I would never completely relax. I’d be waiting for that phone call. I’d dream that something was wrong. I’d be sitting on a beach worrying that I was not immediately reachable and want to go back to the hotel room to ensure there were no calls. I’d just about jump out of my skin if/when the phone rang in the hotel room. It was a heavy mixture of worry, guilt & fear and it was very hard to carry.

I should backtrack a bit...this isn’t the first time I’ve been away since my mom passed. DH & I went away for a few days in the summer to another province to visit some of his extended family. (Trust me, it was no vacation!) It was a lot of visiting with extended family and some sight-seeing. I bring this trip up because I just about had a mini panic attack the night before we left. It was the first time I was going away since my mom passed away. I felt anxious and like I was missing something. Usually, the day before a trip, I’d spend time with my mom, ensure her care was in place and fret non-stop. I ended up calling a good friend to chat because I was so wound up. I’m hoping this coming trip will be different. In fact, I know it will be. It’s almost a good thing that I had this little “test-run” of a getaway in the summer!

I’ve been reading reviews of the resort we’re going to on Tripadvisor (love that site!) and it looks pretty good. Of course, there’s always the complainers who whine about the silliest things and don’t seem to realize that they’re at a resort down south, not a luxury resort in North America. My DH’s mother would be one of those people. I cringe to think of her writing a review for anywhere. You should hear her go on about my city (even though she lives in the country). If you didn’t know any better, you would be convinced the city is the most dangerous, overcrowded, expensive and horrible place in the world. She boasts that she used to live here (when in fact, she stayed in a suburb of the city for about 2 weeks when she was younger and couldn’t hack it). I have actually lived right in the city for over 30 years and absolutely love it. So remember when you’re reading trip reviews, it’s all in the eye of the beholder and that beholder could be someone like my DH’s mother!

Vacation, here I come!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Taking a Walk in Winter

On January 31, I’ll be participating in a province-wide fundraiser for Alzheimers which I have participated in every year since 2000. The funds raised go to Alzheimer organizations that provide information to patients/their families, run support groups and fund research. It’s a great event that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for an excellent cause. This year is especially moving for me, now that my mom has passed on.

The event itself is a walk-a-thon that takes place indoors in large malls or arenas (ie there are many walks going on simultaneously throughout the province). Many participants bring their loved ones who are suffering from Alzheimers to the walk – it’s nice & safe as it’s (1) indoors so it’s climate controlled (2) is clearly lit and has dry & level walking surfaces (3) is wheelchair accessible (4) has plenty of washrooms (very important as you know!) and (5) the organizers have TONS of volunteers so all possible exits or “off route” areas are guarded to avoid any “run-aways”! In fact, some nursing homes have teams and bring big groups of patients!

I never took my mom to the Walk because she didn’t do well in crowds. She’d get flustered and I think it would be too overwhelming for her (especially the big opening/closing ceremonies – it gets pretty loud). My mom also had a heart condition so walking was limited and stress was to be avoided. But for others, they seem to enjoy it or just be oblivious to the chaos.

My sibling has joined me on the Walk for a few years now and it’s funny (in a sad way) for us to see all the patients. We point out different patients saying “oh, there’s a mom” because they have similar habits or expressions that our mom used to have. It’s sad to sometimes see the vacancy in their eyes though. Some have no idea what is going on or where they are. On the other hand, it’s nice to see the ones that are happily unaware of things and walk along smiling; enjoying the crowds and free samples from sponsors (you end up with a bag of pens, notepads, key chains…you name it!).

I’m looking forward to the Walk this year – it’s a bit of a milestone for me. I remember the first Walk I participated in was in the year 2000...the first year that I definitely knew my mom was suffering from Alzheimers after years of being told “she’s just getting old” or “she just misses Dad”. I went to the Walk by myself (despite my siblings still being in a bit of denial) and found hundreds of people, just like me & my mom. I highly recommend to all my readers with Alzheimers patients to look into events like this in their area – you won’t regret it!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A New Year

The First Noel has come & gone and I survived. It was pretty hard at some points and I had a couple of good cries. I think most of my survival can be attributed to distracting myself. If I thought “it’s Christmas” or “it’s New Years” then I got sad and started thinking about my mom. Instead, I just ignored what occasion it was and pretended it was just another day. Kind of like numbing myself to what was actually going on. Perhaps not the healthiest strategy but it got me through my First Noel. However, I did catch myself a few times thinking back to the first Christmas after my father passed away and how empty it felt, just like this year.

I hosted what’s left of my dysfunctional family on the 25th and got through it. I think the only reason I put a tree or any decorations up was for the children in the family. I didn’t want them to feel my sadness. It was quite an effort for me this year but I felt they shouldn’t suffer just because we’ve lost our matriarch and the family is a bunch of dysfunctional tools.

I seemed to have most of my teary moments before the holidays though. I pretty well avoided talking about the holidays at work and tried to avoid going to/partaking in any holiday gatherings. If I did get forced to go (e. g. the company luncheon) I strategically sat in the middle of coworkers from my workgroup so they would sit & talk to others about their jolly holiday plans. This way, I was insulated by people who would carry on the insane chatter so I wouldn’t have to. I just couldn’t do it without feeling like I was going to choke up. I couldn’t carry on mindless small-talk conversations with people and I cringed every time I heard “so, what are your plans for the holidays?” in some annoying chipper tone. I couldn’t be bothered faking any happiness. I just kept thinking how I’d like to sleep through the holidays and not deal with any of it. I can’t tell you how happy I was to finish my last day at work in 2008 and go home. Actually, I can’t tell you how happy I was to see January 2 so that meant the holidays were over and we could get back to “normal” life.

I slept a lot during my time off. I must have really needed it. I would sleep 10 hours at night and then have a 2 hour nap in the afternoon. Plus, when you sleep, you don’t hurt. It’s a good way to pass time when your heart is hurting. In my awake time, I’d watch tv. It was really nice to have this recovery-type of time. My DH was right into it too. He was quite happy to be a couch potato with me.

2008 was quite a year and it’s weird to think it’s over. It’s weird to think my mom passed away LAST YEAR. Someone mentioned to me how the wheels of time don’t stop no matter what happens and sometimes you get caught off guard how time keeps going without you when you get so consumed by something. This same person said their spouse is very depressed, anxious and needs to change the way he handles things but sometimes people are scared of any changes. It would mean letting go of the grief or whatever has a hold on them. That way of living has become normal to them and life without it would feel empty. I think that’s probably what I went through for the first few months without my mom. She was always front and centre on my mind for the 16 years that she was sick so it’s taking quite a while to get adjusted to life without her. I think I’m doing better though!

In other news, this week also marks my one year anniversary of blogging. I officially started blogging in January 2008 (yes, I have one entry before that which I imported to give some history). I have to say I’ve found my first year of blogging very therapeutic. I’ve released a lot of stress, sadness, anxiety, information and some happiness through this wonderful activity and met some really nice people along the way! I’ve also read other blogs and found great comfort in them. I hope others have enjoyed reading my blog too.